BIOGRAPHY OF THE FUEL AND ENERGY COMPLEX: DATES OF BIRTH OF THOSE WHO CHANGED THE INDUSTRY
Only few names remain in our memory. We have remembered Mendeleev and Faraday since school, the family name of Diesel sounds familiar. We recall Shukhov more rarely, and if we hear of the Nobel Prize, we no longer remember which brother founded it. Thus the names of many prominent people, who made an invaluable contribution to science advancement and, in particular, to the fuel power industry, fade in a haze as years go by. Many things that we use today were invented on the back of the ideas and labors of these people.
On February 15, 1782 Sobolevsky Petr Grigoryevich was born. Metallurgists will say that he is one of the “fathers” of powder metallurgy, while watermen will remember that he built one of the first steamers in Russia. Furthermore, he created a gas street lighting system – “a thermal lamp” – which was the first such system in Russia and one of the first in Europe; he was awarded with the Order of Saint Vladimir of the 4th class by supreme order in 1812. It was the first working gas infrastructure in the history of Russia.
On January 12, 1822 Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir, a Belgian and French inventor, was born. He created a great variety of things, for instance, a type-printing telegraph. But his principal lifetime invention was the first working internal combustion engine which he invented in 1860. His motor had one cylinder, spark ignition and could produce approximately 12 horsepower. Gas in admixture with air was the fuel of Lenoir’s engine, which was used in cutters and boats. All subsequent engines are descendants of Lenoir’s motor.
On July 27, 1831 Ludvig Nobel, a distinguished Russian entrepreneur and engineer, was born in Stockholm. All his life he worked in Russia and developed weapon and mechanical production, as well as oil recovery in Baku. He supported all kinds of engineering endeavors, including the projects of Vladimir Shukhov, and was also one of the authors in a number of cases, e.g. the idea of a crude oil tanker. The Nobel Brothers’ company became the leader of technological advancement in the oil industry of Russia which made it rank among the global leaders in this industry. Ludvig Nobel, the brother of Alfred Nobel who founded the Nobel Prize, was a large benefactor who supported the Russian technical society.
December 25, 1848 was marked by the birth of Letny Alexander Lvovich. Since his student years he had been engrossed in the matters of using oil products, and in 1875 he released a book titled “Dry Distillation of Bituminous Fossil”. In his fundamental work he was the first one to describe the decomposition of heavy oil fractions into lighter ones – kerosene and benzene – which became the foundation for the development of the so-called cracking process. Two years later Letny separated benzene, toluene and other aromatic hydrocarbons from oil. He received a five-year privilege for this technology which he used. His research laid the groundwork for the theory of oil refining.
On September 9, 1855 Antun Franjo Lučić, better known as Anthony Francis Lucas, was born. Being a warrant officer of the Austro-Hungarian Navy, he changed his name in the USA into a more convenient one for the local ear and also changed his occupation to that of a mining engineer. In 1990 he staked a well near the Spindletop Hill in Texas based upon detailed calculations. As opposed to other oil investigators who searched for oil at random, Lucas made his decision on the basis of a thorough examination of geological data. On January 1, 1901 his well produced a 30-meter height fountain. In 1936 American oil and gas investigators established the Anthony F. Lucas Gold Medal prize for development in the area of oil exploration.
On March 22, 1870 Lomshakov Alexey Stepanovich, an eminent engineer and political figure, was born in Barnaul. He is mainly known in the latter role as a member of the Constitutional Democratic Party until 1917 and later as an activist of the White emigration. However he is related to the first attempt at an industrial and widespread use of shale gas and oil for the needs of Petrograd. Being a professor of Technological University, Lomshakov headed the Fuel Committee and believed that shale deposits near the Estonian shore could store both oil and gas. It is Lomshakov who saw the prospects of recovering hydrocarbon from shale provided that the fields are close to the place of its consumption.
On June 14, 1901 Shumilov Petr Pavlovich was born in the town of Bobrinets near Kherson. He lived a very short, but eventful life which is worthy of a novel. Being a son of a peasant, he seized the opportunities which the new power granted him and enrolled at the Physical and Mechanical Faculty of Lomonosov Moscow State University in 1923. His first interest was hydrodynamics, and, in particular, hydrodynamics of oil flows in main pipelines. He developed means of pumping high-viscosity oil products with the help of heating and many other working practices with oil and oil products. In 1932 he began improving the hydraulic turbine motor of Kapelyushnikov’s system, and in 1935 his multi-layer unit, which also allowed for controlled directional drilling of wells, was successfully tested. This hydraulic turbine motor was patented, and the patent was sold in the USA.
On May 21, 1919 George Phydias Mitchell, an American entrepreneur and oilman, was born in the coastal city of Galveston, state of Texas. His work history began at an oil field when he was 17 years old. He later graduated from a local university, majoring as an engineer of the oil industry. He worked in an oil and gas recovery company and gradually purchased the shares of his employers, and having taken it under his control, he named it after himself. In 1980, at the age of 61, when other people retire, he began developing the Barnett Shale, using the hydraulic fracture technology. After another 15 years his experience set the example for many other drillers. He remained an innovator even when he was 80 years old. Mitchell passed away in 2013 as the universally acknowledged father of the shale revolution who beheld the triumph of his ideas.
On July 28, 1931 Farman Salmanov was born. He had been fond of geology since childhood and became the discoverer of Western Siberian oil. His intuition, passion and ability to combine it all with careful calculation helped him discover many fields in Siberia which became the foundation for the fuel and energy sector of the country. It is thought that in his lifetime he became the discoverer or a co-discoverer of more than 130 oil and gas fields. Not only did Farman Salmanov search for oil and find it, but also showed in practice how one should supervise this search.